December 2005

Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation, December 12-13, 2005


Committee Members

  • Wm. Roger Louis, Chairman,
  • Carol Anderson,
  • Margaret Hedstrom,
  • Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman,
  • Robert McMahon,
  • Edward Rhodes,
  • Robert Schulzinger,
  • Thomas Schwartz

Office of the Historian

  • Marc Susser, Historian,
  • Kristin Ahlberg,
  • Carl Ashley,
  • Monica Belmonte,
  • Todd Bennett,
  • Myra Burton,
  • John Carland,
  • Paul Claussen,
  • Bradley Coleman,
  • Craig Daigle,
  • Evan Duncan,
  • Steve Galpern,
  • Amy Garrett,
  • David Geyer,
  • Renée Goings,
  • David Herschler,
  • Paul Hibbeln,
  • Susan Holly,
  • Adam Howard,
  • Edward Keefer,
  • Peter Kraemer,
  • Doug Kraft,
  • Erin Mahan,
  • Bill McAllister,
  • Chris Morrison,
  • Linda Qaimmaqami,
  • Kathleen Rasmussen,
  • Doug Selvage,
  • Jim Siekmeier,
  • Chris Tudda,
  • Susan Kovalik Tully,
  • James Van Hook,
  • Jennifer Walele,
  • Dean Weatherhead,
  • Susan Weetman

Bureau of Administration

  • Brian Dowling, A/RPS/IPS;
  • David Adamson, A/RPS/IPS;
  • Harmon Kirby, A/RPS/IPS;
  • John Schwank

National Archives and Records Administration

  • David Kepley, Office of Records Services;
  • David Langbart, Life Cycle Management Division;
  • Don McIlwain, Initial Processing and Declassification Division; Marvin Russell, Initial Processing and Declassification Division;
  • Nancy Smith, Office of Presidential Libraries;
  • John Powers, Nixon Presidential Materials Project

Central Intelligence Agency

  • John C.,
  • Vicki F.

OPEN SESSION, December 12

Approval of the Record of the September 2005 Meeting

Roger Louis called the meeting to order at 1:36 p.m. and entertained nominations for the chair of the committee. Bob McMahon nominated Louis, and the motion seconded by Lisa Cobbs Hoffman. The motion passed unanimously. The committee then approved the record of the September 2005 meeting.

Report by the Executive Secretary

Marc Susser commented that, prior to lunch, the committee members had met with Secretary of State Rice, who expressed strong support for the Foreign Relations (FRUS) series. He indicated that the Office of the Historian had published three Foreign Relations electronic-only volumes during 2005; the Africa, 1969-1972 volume had been published since the September meeting. He anticipated that several print volumes—including Vietnam, 1969-1970 and Japan, 1964-1968—would be published by March 2006. Susser then referenced the latest historical video project, entitled “Sports and Diplomacy in the Global Arena,” describing it as “The History Channel meets ESPN.” A contingent of office historians had debuted the video at the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) conference, held in Kansas City in November. The video and accompanying curriculum guide, he noted, had the potential of reaching up to 1 million students. Susser concluded his report by introducing the newest committee members: Thomas Schwartz and Carol Anderson. Schwartz and Anderson replace two departing members with a combined 15 years of service on the committee: Robert Schulzinger (9 years, 3 as chair) and Cobbs Hoffman (6 years).

Status Reports by the Deputy Historian and the General Editor

David Herschler thanked Schulzinger and Cobbs Hoffman for their years of service on the committee. Turning to personnel matters, Herschler recalled that in December 2004, he had reported to the committee that the office had reached its target goal of employing 40 historians. During the past year, four historians had departed, leaving the office four employees short of its ceiling. Florence Segura, Robert Krikorian, and Laurie Van Hook had left the office during the past 3 months. Herschler indicated that several contract historians would fill these vacancies, and that an office search committee would interview qualified candidates in Washington and at the American Historical Association (AHA) meeting in Philadelphia in January 2006, for open contract positions. He also reported that Craig Daigle, a contract historian in the Policy Studies Division, had been reassigned to the Asia and Americas Division.

Focusing on budgetary matters, Herschler indicated that the 2005 Fiscal Year (FY) had been difficult for both the Department of State and the Bureau of Public Affairs. As a result, these budget issues also impacted the office’s programming capabilities, although the office did expand some of its programs. Herschler commented that it was not yet clear how the 2006 FY budget would impact the office.

Expanding on Susser’s previous remarks, Herschler mentioned that he, Susan Tully, Susan Holly, and Christopher Morrison had attended the NCSS meeting in order to roll out the video, staff a booth in the exhibit hall, and conduct two workshops (for teachers and administrators) focusing upon the accompanying curriculum guide. All agreed that the secondary and university educators in attendance were very receptive to these materials. Educators favored the DVD format of the production over the VHS version, suggesting that the office make more DVD copies available at subsequent meetings. He indicated that the committee and the staff would view the video during the second day of the December meeting. Herschler encouraged the committee members and staff to provide feedback on the production.

Herschler then turned to the issue of declassification. The process, as he had previously stated, has continued to improve, although a declassification backlog persists. “Problem volumes” would inevitably slow the pace of the process. There were, he noted, some positive developments. During calendar year (CY) 2004, the office verified two volumes. By contrast, 5 volumes were verified during CY 2005, with a total of 10 volumes pending verification.

Margaret Hedstrom asked Herschler about the web availability of the recent video. Herschler responded that the video was not accessible from the office’s website, as it was designed for domestic classroom use and not international distribution. Plans were underway to post the curriculum guide on the site. In response to Schwartz’s question concerning the targeted age of the video’s audience, Herschler responded that 6th through 12th grade students, especially middle school students, comprised this audience. In addition, a number of college education professors are using the video packages in their teaching methods courses.

Edward Rhodes commented that while the pace of declassification had improved, the FRUS series continued to miss the yearly declassification target necessary for reaching the 30-year line. For example, the office anticipated verifying 12 volumes during 2005, yet only 7 were declassified. Herschler indicated that the office continued to improve upon the declassification process, but that the complexities of declassification impacted these projected targets.

Ted Keefer, reiterating Herschler’s comments, stated that, while still subject to delays, the declassification process had yielded far better results than ever before. He also referenced the publication of the Nixon administration electronic-only volume on Africa and indicated that two print volumes and one electronic-only volume would be published by the end of March 2006. Discussion of these volumes prompted Keefer to recount the challenges the Office faced in 2001 in meeting the 30-year deadline. Susser and his deputies had to institute a variety of reforms in order to expedite publication of the FRUS series. Over the past 4 years, the office hired, trained, and retrained historians to compile, declassify, and edit FRUS; facilitated on-line access to scanned documents; published the first electronic-only FRUS volumes; and obtained access to the Washington-area Remote Archives Capture (RAC) project. Keefer indicated that the immediate challenge facing the office was gaining access to the Fifth Chronology of the Nixon tapes.

Herschler then highlighted the outstanding work of the declassification and publishing staff in preparing FRUS manuscripts for print and electronic publication. Unfortunately, the FRUS production timeline had encountered several delays due to issues related to the outside typesetter and proofreaders. Keefer outlined several of these problems and expressed his disappointment that the office was unable to produce as many volumes as he had projected at the September committee meeting.

Keefer indicated that he, Susser, Herschler, and Erin Mahan had attended the eighth annual International Conference of Editors of Diplomatic Documents in Paris during the first week of October. He provided a brief overview of the progress made by the office’s international counterparts. The FRUS series, the only official diplomatic record published continuously and without gaps since 1861, he stressed, is the world’s leading series of published diplomatic documents. The U.S. commitment to the series, he concluded, reflected American democratic values. This commitment also was in line with new approaches and collaborative relationships, as the joint documentary publication projects with the Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministries demonstrated. Keefer also noted that more nations were opening their official records.

Hoffman commented that the United States had a legal mandate for the release of official records. She then inquired as to whether or not other nations operated under similar mandates. Keefer answered that the United States was unique in having a legal mandate. Rhodes asked if the counterpart historical offices had inquired as to the feasibility of sending their historians to the United States to observe the FRUS process. Keefer responded that this situation had occurred in the past. Herschler interjected that the conference participants planned in the future meetings to devote more time than at previous conferences to discussing technology, editorial methodology, and collaboration. Schwartz asked if the FRUS series set the agenda for how other nations approach their series. Susser stated that some countries were having problems publishing sensitive matters and might cite FRUS as an example, to make a case for publishing sensitive subjects. Hoffman asked if this might help with foreign equities. Keefer said the counterparts tend to have similar declassification issues. Rhodes referenced Keefer’s earlier assertions that the office would publish 12 FRUS volumes each year and asked if there was anything the committee could do to expedite the process. Keefer asserted that declassification remained the greatest concern. The Fifth Chron of the Nixon tapes continued to pose a challenge, as these conversations have not been time-coded or checked for donor deed of gift, and the conversations are difficult to locate in the tape log. Daigle said the office was willing to do the work but required access. Mahan mentioned the issues associated with the Nixon estate.

Issues Relating to the Declassification and Opening of the Foreign Policy Record

Louis called on Brian Dowling to give his report. In his last presentation to the committee, Dowling announced his impending December 31, 2005, retirement after 44 years of government service. Patrick Scholl will assume Dowling’s responsibilities. Dowling reported that his division had declassified 1 million pages of paper records and 300,000 pages of electronic records since the last meeting. He anticipated that the Office of Information Programs and Services (IPS) would need to process 9 million pages, including 2 million pages on P-reels, in order to meet the December 2006 goal. Completion of the P-reel records would not occur until 2009, due to the financial exigencies and labor required in converting P-reels to paper. He commented that the Department of State was not budgeting the necessary amount of money for the conversion. He expressed confidence that the remaining 3 million pages of paper records would be declassified before the end of 2006 and that the 4 million pages of electronic records would be completed by the goal date.

Louis requested that Dowling update the committee on the status of the records damaged during the June flood. Fortunately, Dowling commented, the freeze-drying procedure performed in Texas had resuscitated these records. He added, however, that due to budgetary constraints, the retired foreign service officers (WAEs) responsible for declassification review were furloughed until January 3, 2006. Nonetheless, he projected that the classified records would be processed by January, and that IPS would hire qualified undergraduate and graduate students to review the unclassified records. After Dowling’s departure, IPS intended to reorganize his office.

Herschler asked that it be entered into the record that the committee and office are very appreciative of Dowling’s work and assistance over the years, as well as his service on the Nazi and Japanese War Criminals Interagency Working Group (IWG) task force.

The committee recessed for a break at 2:47 p.m.


Report by the Subcommittee on Electronic Records

Louis began the session at 3:03 p.m. by asking Hedstrom to report on the meeting of the Subcommittee on Electronic Records. Hedstrom explained that the subcommittee had discussed the Access to Archives Database (AAD), which the National Archives (NARA) had launched in February 2003 to provide end-user public access to its electronic records. NARA, under this pilot project, has made a small percentage of the records available, focusing first on revising a reliable user interface. This revised design, based on three different expert reports, would be launched at noon on December 12. Hedstrom explained that, due to an expected avalanche of genealogical requests, NARA had deliberately adopted a “slow rollout” before making the interface fully operational. Without Internet access to the digital cable files, NARA also cancelled the demonstrations of the interface for the committee.

Hedstrom recalled her experiences, related to AAD’s evolution, during her tenure on the committee. She noted that while AAD’s merits were obvious, the ease of Internet access also served to heighten scrutiny. NARA had decided to make approximately 150,000 telegrams available through the AAD prototype, which Hedstrom and others had tested, only after extensive declassification review. During the prototype-testing phase, NARA discovered a glitch pertaining to the declassification review, which had targeted both national security and privacy information; still, some privacy issues remained to be dealt with, inter alia because guidance on these issues had changed since the cables were originally reviewed by the State Department’s then-pilot project. Relevant law and policy required NARA to withhold the dissemination of information such as Social Security numbers and medical data. The privacy problems raised several interrelated issues. Department of State reviewers had reexamined the files using modernized filters and devised, with NARA, an assessment process. Reviewers also examined subject tags in order to distinguish between permanent and temporary records. NARA intended, despite the delay, to arrange temporary access to these electronic records. Hedstrom added that the committee needed to ensure that NARA exercised “due diligence,” regarding privacy issues, during the processing of the material.

In response to Hedstrom’s comment about permanent and temporary records, Rhodes asked how NARA distinguished between these records. David Langbart replied that the process was very simple—records that are worth preserving are accessioned by the National Archives while the temporary records are destroyed before reaching NARA. The Archivist of the United States approves the record schedules before their implementation. When Rhodes asked for elaboration, Langbart described how the system of subject tags could be used to determine the disposition of the records in question. NARA hopes to use the system, to eliminate a large volume of temporary records. Langbart added that the NARA understood that the system was not perfect. Some permanent records, for instance, might be indexed with what might be considered administrative subject tags, but actually covered important issues. NARA, however, plans to undertake a careful review of the records before the process is finalized in order to ensure that all valuable records were preserved.

Hedstrom remarked that filters would be developed and applied to the review of 1973-75 records. She added that several agencies were in the process of reviewing materials through 1976. By the end of 2006, NARA intended to complete the reviews of all pre-1981 telegrams. Hedstrom also updated the committee on the status of the older, withdrawn records from the NARA stacks. Approximately 20 percent of these records have been declassified, leaving 80 percent remaining as withdrawn documents. NARA had devised a process for tracking other agencies as these agencies review withdrawn documents. Unfortunately, NARA’s personnel shortages have slowed the process of refiling newly-declassified, formerly withdrawn, documents. A researcher requesting the formerly-withdrawn record can ask NARA if the withdrawn item is releasable. NARA will search the withdrawn items collection and will return to the file any items that are now releasable.

Bill McAllister raised the issue of redacting acronyms of organizations, to allow a large portion of withdrawn documents to be declassified. Nancy Smith remarked that generally, presidential libraries hold redacting authority, while NARA does not. Don McIllwain said that NARA had requested authority to use redaction instructions provided by the equity-holding agency.

Foreign Relations Research in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter Materials

Herschler reported that there were two issues of note with regard to research in the presidential materials. He indicated that the Nixon Project staff had kept the Presidential Recording and Materials Preservation Act (PRMPA) reviews up to date; however, problems persisted with access to the Nixon tapes. Herschler then commented on the availability of Carter presidential materials, noting that he, Keefer, and Mahan had met with Smith to discuss a draft memorandum of understanding (MOU) concerning local access to the RAC system. Herschler pointed out that since the last meeting of the committee, two office historians had received RAC training.

Keefer emphasized that the office had “reached a real impasse” with the Nixon Project, specifically concerning the Fifth Chron of tapes. He asserted that, 14 months ago, the office had submitted the final request for these tapes and had not received any of these recordings. The issue needed to be resolved immediately, as several FRUS compilations would be delayed in order to incorporate the recordings.

Mahan commented on the 1-hour RAC project training session she and Daigle had attended. Fifty-five series of Carter Library materials are available through the RAC, although the collections still need to be matched to the Carter finding aids. She added that, due to the computerized nature of the RAC, hours of continuous research would be “tough on the eyes.” Herschler interjected that Smith initiated the RAC pilot project 6 years ago.

After a brief introduction by Louis, John Powers noted that as this was his fourth meeting with the committee; he could no longer be considered a newcomer and would thus be subject to some tougher questioning. Powers outlined the series of structural problems affecting the Nixon Project facilities and ability of State historians to conduct research, specifically a broken vault door. Until a custom-replacement door was crafted and installed, a process that took 3 weeks, office historians could not continue their research. Subsequently, another vault door broke, which required only 1 week for repair. In addition to damaged vault doors, Powers noted, one of the digital tape recorders utilized for tape transcription had broken, resulting in the need to reproduce seven conversations. The Acting Director of the Nixon Project announced 2 weeks ago that he would not extend his detail and would leave his post in early March.

Powers then detailed some of the Nixon Project’s recent activities. During November, 40,000 documents on Vietnam were released, in addition to 3,800 previously-withheld documents. The Nixon Library received $2 million for the impending move to California, and the Office of Presidential Libraries is preparing the transfer paperwork. The Deed of Gift is close to completion, and should be available by the March 2006 committee meeting. A portion of the $2 million will be directed toward augmenting the depleted staff. Powers also provided figures concerning the recent reference load; the Project staff had handled 1,321 boxes, assisted 58 researchers, and answered 124 e-mail messages. All staff members with appropriate clearances had been working on the RAC project, and are on schedule to complete all equity reviews of classified materials by June 2006. At that point, staff members could refocus their attention on the Fifth Chron. The firm deadline associated with declassification meant that the time spent on tape review had to be curtailed.

Powers commented that few office historians had recently visited the Nixon Project. He said that his staff had spent 125 hours on FRUS work this quarter, most of which was tape review and duplication by Bridget Crowley. Janice Wiggins, who had been on loan to the Project doing some review work and packaging, had assumed a different position within NARA. Concluding his remarks, Powers indicated that the Nixon Project had provided the office with 255,001 pages of documents since the Project’s inception.

Smith explained that NARA had reached an agreement with the CIA that permitted the scanning, at the presidential libraries, of RAC materials. The RAC project has completed scanning at several libraries and intends to transfer all RAC material to NARA for declassification review by December 2006. Archivists would have until 2009 to complete the review. She commented that she had examined the draft MOU concerning office access to the RAC project and anticipated no real difficulties with it. The RAC project would prove successful, Smith noted, but it would not be comprehensive, as it only expedited declassification. Historians would still be required to conduct research in the open materials at the libraries.

Powers indicated that the Library of Congress (LOC) had encouraged Henry Kissinger to open his telephone conversation transcripts, an act that amounted to breaking the donor deed of gift. Hedstrom asked if this meant that the LOC would open the transcripts without Kissinger’s permission. Powers replied that opening the transcripts required Kissinger to change his deed of gift in order to prevent re-review and declassification of the materials.

Keefer asked Powers how the impasse concerning the Fifth Chron might be resolved, citing the necessity of the tapes for inclusion in FRUS. Powers responded that, due to the demands of the RAC, the staff would not begin work on the Fifth Chron. until June 2006. If staff members finished their work for the RAC project, there was a possibility that work could resume on the Fifth Chron. Powers also indicated that the staff was devising a system that would allow Crowley to fast-forward to the foreign policy portions of the Nixon tape conversations and duplicate only those sections.

Cobbs Hoffman asked Keefer if Powers’s response addressed the needs and concerns of the office. Keefer replied that it was only a partial solution, and noted that the office and the Nixon Project needed to meet in order to discuss creative means of fully solving the issue. Mahan asked Powers if the tapes in question had been screened under the provisions of PRMPA. Powers replied that a “preliminary review” had been done, but was clearly insufficient. Mahan responded that the office could assume the workload for processing the bulk of the remaining tapes if an agreement could be devised. Herschler suggested that this issue be discussed with Powers in the near future. Keefer again cautioned that if these conversations were not made available, the office had to confront the reality of publishing FRUS volumes without tape transcripts.

The CIA and the Foreign Relations Series

Herschler noted that Robert Jervis, Chair of the CIA’s Historical Review Panel (HRP), was in attendance. He then discussed several successfully completed reviews, and those currently under consideration, indicating that the backlog had been reduced from nine to five volumes. Herschler, however, expressed concern that recent discussions with Agency representatives indicated that there had been departures from the MOU in the CIA declassification process.

The CIA reported on specifics of the volumes under review, and discussed with the committee Herschler’s concern about deviation from the MOU.

James Van Hook reported on the progress of his Iran retrospective volume’s declassification review. He also reported that Keefer had completed his review of Van Hook’s other volume, Intelligence and Foreign Policy, 1947-1960.

Jervis discussed the HRP’s views on FRUS volumes under review at CIA.

Schulzinger observed that since he began his tenure, the committee and the CIA had made enormous progress, evidenced by the presence of a Joint Historian and the MOU. As a retiring committee member, he suggested that the committee take the time to thoroughly review FRUS volumes due to their importance. He expressed the opinion that the brief time allotted to the committee for review of volumes was insufficient and that the volumes required more intense scrutiny. Rhodes concurred, noting that the committee would lose credibility if certain high-profile volumes had outstanding issues.

The committee adjourned for the day at 5:10 p.m.


Staff Historians Report on Volumes in Progress and Other Office Business

Louis called the committee to order at 8:28 a.m. and introduced office historian David Geyer who reported to the committee on his volume: Soviet Union, October 1970-1971.

Herschler, Holly, and Tully then briefly introduced the Sports and Diplomacy video. At the conclusion of the presentation, committee members offered their input.

The committee recessed for a break at 9:19 a.m.

The Foreign Relations Series: Withheld Documentation From Recently Declassified Manuscripts and Other Clearance Issues

The committee resumed meeting at 9:40 a.m.

McMahon reported on the meeting of the Subcommittee on the Foreign Relations series. McMahon said that certain classified acronyms had added to NARA’s difficulties in declassifying documents. NARA would like authority to redact such acronyms without having to contact the other agencies regarding this equity. McMahon requested that the committee put this issue on the agenda at its next meeting.

Louis then opened a discussion on the refiling of withdrawn items at NARA. The committee expressed concern with NARA’s failure to complete refiling and encouraged a coordinated effort by NARA and the Presidential libraries. Keefer then concluded the session by giving an update on the status of the access guides.

For the record, Louis offered the committee’s thanks to Cobbs Hoffman and Schulzinger for their tenure on the committee. He commented that Cobbs Hoffman had ensured that the FRUS series had maintained high standards. Similarly, Schulzinger urged the committee to be accountable. Louis also requested that the committee receive an update, during the next committee meeting, as to the status of the FRUS access guides.

Lastly, Herschler recognized Susser for his recent award and offered congratulations on behalf of the office staff.

The committee went into executive session at 11:40 a.m.